March 1, 2024 at 10:50 a.m.

‘WE ARE CONCERNED’

Hundreds come out to fight the closure of Burdett Birth Center in Troy
Hundreds of concerned community members, nurses, midwives and mothers attended a public forum about the expected closure of Burdett Birth Center, hosted by St. Peter’s Health Partners, on the campus of HVCC on Feb. 28. (Emily Benson photo)
Hundreds of concerned community members, nurses, midwives and mothers attended a public forum about the expected closure of Burdett Birth Center, hosted by St. Peter’s Health Partners, on the campus of HVCC on Feb. 28. (Emily Benson photo)

By Emily Benson | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Hundreds of protestors came out in support of keeping the Burdett Birth Center in Troy open at a public meeting, the first to be organized by St. Peter’s Health Partners at Hudson Valley Community College on Feb. 28.

St. Peter’s partners took questions for almost three hours, attempting to answer as many concerns as possible from the crowded meeting, held inside HVCC’s Bulmer Telecommunications Center.

Panelists included St. Peter’s president and CEO Dr. Steven Hanks, Kenneth Baker, St. Peter’s Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and other SPHP leaders, who echoed a desire to listen to concerns but couldn’t promise any changes in their stance of closing the center.

St. Peter’s Health Partners, which is run by Trinity Health and oversees the center, said the Burdett Center costs around $2.3 million annually to run. While Trinity never instructed St. Peter’s directly to close the center, Hanks said that by cutting costs through closing Burdett, St. Peter’s would be in a better financial position to provide the best care to its patients across the board.

“We are here to listen to you and your concerns on the plans we’ve put forth,” Hanks said. “It has been a long journey and it’s our goal and objective to continue to be here for the community, and that requires (making) difficult choices, and that’s the context in which the decision was made supported by our board to consolidate our birthing services at St. Peter’s Hospital.”

The Burdett Center — located inside Troy’s Samaritan Hospital — is Rensselaer County’s only maternity ward. Plans for its closure were first announced last June but are still awaiting approval from the Department of Health. 

The Albany Diocese has been following the center’s potential closure since its announcement. Last July, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger released a statement saying closing the center could have a “chilling impact” on moms and babies. On Sept. 18, the Bishop submitted a written statement for the record as part of a hearing organized by New York Attorney General Tish James at Russell Sage College.

“If money can be found to keep Burdett operating, great. If not, let’s work together to find solutions,” Bishop Scharfenberger said at the time. “Let’s take that information and, instead of fighting each other for what we want, let’s also listen to each other, and work together to find solutions that can work for all.”

In November, the Diocese organized a synod session-style meeting to discuss potential ways to help families and mothers impacted by the center’s potential closure. And just last month, the Diocese of Albany —  as well as the Gabriel Project, Gianna of Albany, Respect Life of the Diocese of Albany, Miscarriage Ministry and others — met with SPHP representatives directly to discuss how they could help and what resources could be offered to mothers in need.

At the HVCC meeting, crowd members voiced concerns about the issues of transporting expecting mothers in Rensselaer to hospitals farther away and the strain of increased patients on the already thin nursing staff at Ellis, Samaritan and St. Peter’s Hospitals.

Elected officials, like Assemblyman John T. McDonald III (D-Cohoes), also came out in opposition to the center’s closing.

“We do not fault the local leadership who are decent individuals following Michigan’s corporate ruling,” McDonald said, citing Trinity Health’s headquarters in Livonia, Mich. “We elected officials get it when it comes to an organization, we also understand business. We understand what it is like to respond to the demands of the public, we understand the bottom line and the need to prepare for the future … Sadly, it is the residents of Rensselaer country that are going to feel the pain.”

“If Trinity is truly concerned about the life of mom and child, by listening to the needs of this community, which is only a small example of the many that will be impacted, they might want to see how we can find a solution and be a leader,” he added.

Some members of the crowd included working or retired midwives, mothers who birthed at Burdett, and nurses and healthcare providers. Many raised questions about how St. Peter’s would handle the additional estimated 900 births per year when Burdett closes. 

Despite promises from the board that staffing could handle the consolidation, a fear that the panelists could be wrong was palpable in the room.

“Are you going to be able to provide that continuation of care?” one attendee asked, referencing the midwife model of birth at Burdett that includes family being present during birth, and the ability to eat solid foods during labor. “This is important stuff. These are the reasons why women choose Burdett over a hospital. Can that be replicated?”

Other nursing staff were concerned that what was happening to Burdett could happen to other midwife programs in the area.

“We are concerned,” said Lisa Blodgett, a former nurse at Ellis and St. Clare’s Hospitals and current member of the NYS Nurses Association. “We are in contract negotiations at Ellis and Bellevue and we have Trinity knocking at our door. We are concerned that what they’re doing to Burdett is going to trickle down and happen to Bellevue Women’s Center.”

“We see the writing on the wall,” said Dawn Zipp, NICU nurse at Bellevue Hospital, “because when you say you’re not going to do something, about five years later, it comes down with a gavel.”

“Cuts need to stop,” Zipp added. “You have people in this room who are willing to be part of the solution.”



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